Category Archives: Other People

Something Happened Today

Body-positivity is not easy, you guys. It takes a lot of hard mental/emotional work to get to a place where you are happy with the body you HAVE. This is doubly true if the body one inhabits is not the body that society/media/the world tells you is acceptable or desirable.

Lucky for me, I’m not terribly concerned with being accepted or desired, but I’m still human. I’d like to lose a little weight. I’d like my clothes to fit better. I’m fairly healthy but I’d like to stay that way now that I’m like, an actual adult person. But it is HARD to walk around in a body that people abhor and even fear.

AND I’M NOT EVEN THAT BIG. I’m on the border of a size 14 and size 16. It’s not the happiest place to be, because shopping is problematic on the best day, but that’s where I am and it’s fine. I am an average-sized woman. Genetics are NOT on my side – while there is a range of sizes amongst the women in my family, I was pretty much destined to have either a big ass or a big chest and SURPRISE!! I GOT BOTH! Thanks so much, doughy German ancestors!! MORE SCHNITZEL!

Anyway, aside from all that, I’m also a runner. I am fat and slow and that’s my lane, but I run. Slowly. I was doing that today! I have a 2-mile loop that I stomp around, and my current mantra is “fuck this, finish strong” so I run hard (for me) for about the last 100 meters, from the trail to where I park my truck.

This leaves me all red-faced and sweaty and generally pretty gross. Salty. I forgot deodorant this morning so I’m a little funky. And I’ve been recovering from bronchitis that turned into pneumonia, so my lungs are still getting back into the swing of that whole “breathing” thing. Freddie says he’s going to get me a shirt made that says “I’m not dying, this is just how I breathe.”

This was my state when I made it to the car, fished out my keys and started to stretch.

Two women parked next to me looked over at me and one of them snorted, “Fat girls look so tired! I’m so glad I don’t have to work that hard to stay this thin.”

Oh. OH!!

Now, some of you know that I am a big fan of the witty comeback. I spend a lot of time in online comment sections being hilarious and clever and a little bit rude. I’m not always like that in real life because honestly, who has the time, and 90% of the time I’m not paying attention anyway. But today? Oh.

I stood up.

I walked over to this woman and looked her straight in the eye, smiled, and said, “It’s so nice the sun is out today, isn’t it?” I never break eye contact.

She stammered some kind of reply.

I kept smiling, kept looking her in the eye.

“Sorry.” [mumbled]

Still smiling, still making eye contact.

“You will be.”

[smiling]

Then I got in my truck and went to Starbucks for my big-ass bucket o’coffee.

What did I mean by “you will be?” Welllllll that’s the beauty of that kind of statement, isn’t it? It means everything and nothing at the same time. I hope it confused her. I hope she takes a look at the women in her family and realizes that yes, the adipose will come for her, too. Or maybe her family is full of thin women who are cold all the time. Maybe she’ll find that someday, she does indeed have to work “that hard” to stay “that thin” and she’ll wonder if it’s worth it.

I know what I meant. Someday, she will, too. In the meantime, I will continue to run, continue to be slow, maybe be less fat (probably not, though).

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Filed under Me Me Me, Other People

To The Mother of the Kids Down The Street

Yeah, I saw you this morning when you were walking your kids to school. You don’t have to pass right by my house, but you chose to. It’s unfortunate that I was walking my kid to the bus stop at the same time. Or perhaps it was deliberate, I don’t know and to be quite honest, I don’t really care.

Did I stop to speak to you? No.

Did I even look in your direction? No.

Why?

BECAUSE YOU DO NOT EXIST.

Your kids and my kid tried that whole friendship thing. Over the course of two years I watched as things would ebb and flow between them, and I stayed out of it for the most part. Kids will be kids, and a large part of growing up is learning to navigate the social flow. As an only child, my daughter struggles with it a little bit. Your kids have each other to pummel and negotiate with.

The first time, Jillian came home from the playground in tears because your son wouldn’t leave her alone. I didn’t press for details but I did gather that she’d asked him to stop and he would not, and it progressed to him hitting her. Maybe it was in jest, I don’t know. But what I do know is that I asked you to talk with your son about putting hands on my daughter and that bit of business stopped.

The second time (and a few times thereafter), she came home in tears because your daughter said she didn’t want to be friends anymore. I didn’t get involved because that is normal little-girl behavior and it tends to work itself out. A few days later, they were palling around the neighborhood as if nothing had happened.

Then we have the incident from a couple of weeks ago. Jillian comes home from the playground in tears (AGAIN), and when I asked what happened, I got a garbled mess of what sounds like an attempt at bullying and ended with “[Your kid] hit me.”

That’s when I stepped in. I told Jillian in no uncertain terms that if ANY of your children EVER hit her again, she has my permission and my blessing and my support to give it back as good as she gets. I’ve even told her where on the body she should aim.

After I calmed her down and cheered her up, I sent you a note saying that while I understand kids mess around, if yours can’t control themselves around my kid, then we’re going to have to have a talk. I know you’ve said that I think I’m better than everyone else, and that’s mostly true. I might not be better than everyone else, but I’m miles ahead of you because I’m not raising a bully. Or two, as the case may be.

And that’s why I didn’t even look in your direction this morning.

It’s not that I’m ignoring you, it’s that you simply don’t exist.

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Filed under Jillian, Other People

Remembering Lou

When a famous person dies, people mourn. It can seem strange, to mourn someone you only know through their art or music or words, but it’s natural, I think. The music and art and books we love are what help shape us as people, and it starts almost immediately after birth because the best kind of parents understand that their children are blank slates and you can almost make them do anything you want.

Any of you who are acquainted with me or my brother know that we can be deeply strange individuals. It’s the kind of weirdness that’s not born – it’s made, and it’s directly attributable to the various family road trips we took as children.

In the early 80s, we didn’t have minivans (thank God) or in-car “entertainment” systems. We had the radio (and hoo boy, when we upgraded to a tape deck in the car, my mom was pretty sure her life was complete), and each other and what we could spot out the windows as we drove down the US Routes of the country (my dad hated interstates and we avoided them as much as possible).

I don’t remember which trip, exactly. It could have been any or all of them. But Wee Andy and I were in the backseat of my mom’s enormous green 1977 Thunderbird. This car was huge. AND GREEN. It was like the Hulk in automobile form. Ma had typed up and printed out lyrics to a few of her favorite songs and we were forced asked to sing along. Before you ask, let me tell you that no, you probably won’t be allowed to sing Neil Young’s “Powderfinger” for the 2nd grade talent show. Apparently the sheet music for piano for this song is not readily available to your average elementary-school music teacher.

ANYWAY.

One of those songs was Lou Reed’s “Walk On the Wild Side.” Perfectly appropriate for your 8- and 5-year-old children to sing along with, yes? Well, of course. Andy and I sang backup, obviously, because while it’s perfectly fine to have your grade-school children sing the “colored girls'” part, they drew the line at having us sing about fellatio.

See? We did have limits!

All of this is to explain why I’m feeling sad that Lou Reed died. His work with the Velvet Underground and his subsequent solo albums were never really in my regular listening rotation, but I appreciate his music for the art that it so obviously is. He was, by almost all measures, a fucking genius. And he earned the the right to the arrogance that is part of his legendary persona.

In his book “Lipstick Traces,” Greil Marcus posits that the Sex Pistols changed the world. For a long time, I fully agreed with that view because the Sex Pistols were like nothing that came before and anyone who tried to emulate what they did failed miserably. Over the years, however, I’ve modified that agreement to include Lou Reed. The Sex Pistols would not, could not have existed without Lou and the Velvet Underground, shining a dark lantern over the landscape and not caring if you followed or not.

That [alleged] Brian Eno mis-quote is making the rounds at the moment, and it goes a little something like this: “The Velvet Underground only sold 10,000 copies (or 5,000 or 30,000 depending on the source of this mis-quote), but everyone who bought one went out and started a band.” Whether or not Brian Eno actually said that (sources are fuzzy, I did try to look it up), the gist of it is absolutely true. As I said to a friend yesterday: Without the Velvet Underground, there would be no punk rock. And without punk rock, there would be no Me.

A few years ago, I was in NYC, on my way to a show. I forget which show, but I know I was in the West Village and I was in a hurry because the train was slow and I was about to be late. Because of this, I tripped over one of those infernal little iron fences they put around the trees that jut out of the sidewalk, and fell ass-over-teakettle right there in front of the world. This happens a lot. This particular time, I was trying to right myself and a hand appeared in my vision. I took it, hauled myself up, and said “Hey, thanks.”

To Lou Reed. Only in New York, right?

He said, “Watch where you’re going.”

I will.

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Filed under Music, Other People

So, this just happened

It’s Monday! Now that I’m working on Sundays, I don’t usually do the grocery shopping on that day. I do it on Monday, which is a teeny bit less annoying because you don’t have to deal with as many Full Families (seriously, grandma does NOT have to come to the grocery store with you) or Grocery Tourists (you will know them by the candied walnuts and quarter-wheel of expensive Brie all alone in the cart). Mondays are much easier for getting in and plowing through the list and getting the hell out.

I’m fairly relaxed about the grocery checkout. Sometimes the line is a bit long and that can get boring, but that’s why God invented Us Magazine, you see. So it’s not bad. I don’t mind waiting. Sometimes the front-end coordinator person comes over and is all “hey, why don’t you step down to lane 5?” That’s always fun, and it happened today. So I moseyed on down to the lane he indicated and it’s a “7 Items or Fewer” lane. Eh, fine. That guy was just standing there, and after all, the other guy TOLD ME to go there. So I did.

Immediately after I entered the lane and started unloading my cart, two people got in line behind me and holy shitballs, you’d think I was smacking a puppy the way they acted.

[note: these people were of the “elderly” variety of human]

The woman directly behind me said nothing, but shot me a pretty nasty look. That’s fair. I’ve done the same, and it’s all good because you know? Someone jumping on the 7 Items lane with a whole cart is kind of a dick. BUT I WAS TOLD TO GO THERE. The elderly gent behind that lady, however, decided to make with the smack talk. AND THEN HE FOLLOWED ME OUT TO MY CAR to yell at me some more.

Here’s an excerpt:

Him: You people are unbelievable.

Me: [ignore]

Him: HEY. DID YOU HEAR ME?

Me: [ignore]

Him: It said SEVEN ITEMS OR LESS.

Me: Um, actually, that’s seven items OR FEWER.

Him: What? What’s the difference? Can’t you count?

Me: Apparently not, but I’ve got this English grammar thing down cold.

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Happy Holidays, bitches

The other day, I was waiting in the school lobby to pick up the Exploding Germ Factory known as my child. If the kid isn’t going on a bus, a parent or someone has to sign them out to walk home. It’s a pain in my ass to have to do this but rules are rules! (Insert obligatory “in my day…” rant. Also, get off my lawn).

And that’s fine – over the past couple of years I’ve been doing this, I have made friends and acquaintances so there are always people to chat with. It’s nice and it makes me even more glad we moved to a cute little town like this instead of a sprawling suburb.

So I’m waiting around, chatting with the other parents, and out of the corner of my eye, I spot a lady I don’t think I’ve seen before. At least, she wasn’t a regular, because I didn’t recognize her. She looked like a perfectly nice lady except for one thing.

Pinned to the front of her overcoat was a button that said “Yes! You may wish me a Merry Christmas!”

My first reaction? “oh, FUCK YOU, lady. Seriously.”

(but only in my head, because I’m not a semi-professional jackass in real life. Only on the internet)

It pains me, physically, to think that someone SPENT MONEY on such a thing and feels a need to wear it around in public and not treat it as the absolute fucking joke that it is. A person who would purchase and wear such a button is probably the type of person who thinks letting The Gays get married is a threat to the American Family. I. ROLL. MY. EYES.

COME ON, people. THERE IS NO WAR ON CHRISTMAS. Ask any Jewish person you know if there is any danger of Christmas going away and they will tell you. If someone wants to wish me a Merry Christmas, I will smile and say it back to them even though I don’t celebrate Christmas anymore (but boy do I want to put up a tree. Ask me about it sometime). If someone wishes me a “Happy Holidays” I will smile and say it back to them and then I will think extra happy thoughts about that person for wanting to include EVERYONE IN THE WORLD instead of just the people who believe in one particular mythology.

There are lots of religions out there and lots of mythologies who are having festive times this month, why not include them all?

But that button just rubs me the wrong goddamned way, and if I happen to run into this lady or anyone else sporting a similar button, I am going to GO OUT OF MY WAY to wish them “Happy Holidays.”

Bitches.

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Filed under Me Me Me, Other People

Nobody loves me

Seriously why didn’t anyone alert me to the existence of Jason Good? Is it because you don’t want me to be happy? IS THAT IT?

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Filed under Musing, Other People

Things I Cannot Stand

So. Freddie is currently flipping channels while I try to figure out how to make coherent sentences out of the things that are floating around in my brain. In my defense, I have had a WHOLE BUNCH of cough syrup today on top of four or five or six beer DON’T JUDGE ME I’M A PROFESSIONAL so writing this post is more challenging than usual.

Anyway, he has landed on Austin Powers in Goldmember, which is fucking terrible, and because of this I am mad at Beyonce.

Because OH MY GOD I don’t care where you’re from but “goldmember” is not pronounced “goldmimber.” It’s not. I don’t care. Regional dialects be damned OH MY GOD IT’S A SHORT ‘E’ NOT A SHORT ‘I’ AND DON’T MAKE ME COME DOWN THERE.

Gah.

Now, as a linguist, I am fully aware that language is a fluid medium that grows and changes at a pace that no printed tome can ever hope to keep up with, but MY GOD FOR FUCK’S SAKE at least pronounce things with some idea of what the sounds are. SHEESH.

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Filed under Musing, Other People

Scotland, Part The Fifth

Read the other four parts first! Why wouldn’t you? I don’t write these for fun, you know. Oh… right.
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

Considering the shenanigans that Wednesday night witnessed, a great many of us were up and at ’em early enough on Thursday. Reed greeted me at breakfast with a fresh Bloody Mary, because that guy is a genius. Everyone looked a little rough around the edges except for Michael, who looked like he was rocking the hangover sweats writ large. Poor guy. I am more than a little surprised that I wasn’t hung over at all, despite my Professional Drunk In Public status. I’ve been pro since 1994, and have had less-boozy evenings that resulted in suicidal mornings. There must be something magical about Scotland (duh) that prevents hangovers. I might have to move there.

Anyway, once breakfast was done, we hucked our luggage down to the front door and said our goodbyes. The gang was headed into Tarbert so the GSH boys could visit the office there and the rest of us (Ashley, Jim, Freddie, and I) could do a whirlwind shopping trip at the Harris Tweed Shop (the 2nd one). I struggled mightily, but managed to restrain myself from buying more yarn. I did try, though. I hugged it and everything. It was only when Freddie reminded me that over-weight baggage costs eleventy million dollars to fly nowadays that I reined it in.

Across from the shop was a warehouse, and that warehouse was FILLED WITH TWEED. I’m very happy we didn’t have a whole lot of time to spend or I would still be in there. On the back wall, there was a loom like the one we’d seen earlier in the week. It was obviously in use, judging by the TV that sat on the table nearby and the Barbie-style Duchess Catherine doll next to it. I did NOT take a photo of that, but I totally should have.

Loom
Loom at rest

Across the aisle was an example of an hand loom. It looks very complicated and scary but was really quite a beautiful piece. There were three spinning wheels next to it but I couldn’t get the best photo, unfortunately. I wonder if Freddie would let me get a loom?

Olderloom
Hand loom

On the wall between the two looms was this array of photographs, documenting the tweed process from sheep to store. It used to be done by one person (or family group or similar) and the last known person to do the whole thing herownself, from start to finish was Marion Campbell, who died in 1996. I’m kicking myself now for not picking up a copy of a book that was written about her, because the photos are fascinating.

Tweedprocessphotos
Tweed, from sheep to store

Oh, you can just see the Duchess Catherine doll in the left-hand side of this photo! HA!

Loomagain
Another angle

Tweed, from floor to ceiling, in every shade of tan and grey. The dyes are traditionally made from plants and other vegetation on the island, so if you’re kitted out in full tweed, you might as well be wearing camouflage.

Warehouse
Tweed

MoreTweed
More tweed

StillMoreTweed
I just like to say tweed

We had a flight to catch, so we all got back in the van and went up the hill to the GSH office to pick up the others. Somehow or another, I ended up in the back of the van with Frankie (and Mark, I think), which was a bad idea because we were both a little bit green around the edges when we got to the airport. Luckily, I am cured by terrible coffee, and started feeling better almost instantly once that happened. Just to be safe, I took my Dramamine for the plane ride because the rule is: propellers = nausea.

[side note: Dear Scotland, an Americano is a shit cup of coffee. Get some filters and make me some NORMAL COFFEE next time I’m there. Love, Me]

While we were waiting to board the plane, I was playing with the settings on the camera and got this next shot, upon which I will not comment. [grin]

RockStar
Rock Star?

The island gave us many things over the course of those few days, and I think it was fitting that we were given a rainbow as we got on the plane to leave.

Rainbow
Rainbows are my favorite

We flew into Glasgow and then piled into various cars and vans (Frankie and I in the middle this time) for the short ride to Edinburgh. I love that city and really need to spend more time there. Two days ten years ago and then less than 24 hours this time is not nearly enough. Our hotel in the city was a basic Holiday Inn (not the Parliament House, which would have been tremendously funny), within walking distance to the Royal Mile, which was our first destination. When we’d landed, the sun was almost out, and while it was a bit sprinkly during the drive over, by the time we were ready to head out into town, it was a full-on downpour. Yay for jackets with hoods!

Our first stop, THANK GOD, was a real, actual, what-I-wanted-in-the-first-place pub. Hooray and Hallelujah, plus it was nice to get out of the rain. The bartender was um, handsome, so I spent a great deal of time trying to figure out what I wanted.

Hellothere
Well, hello there.

I can’t believe this is the best picture I got of Frankie, who is one of the most hilarious people I have ever had the good fortune to meet.

Frankie
Frankie on his home turf

It turned out that the beer I’d ordered (with Freddie and Steve copying me like the good boys they are) didn’t have enough in the cask for three full pints, so Mr. Handsome Bartender did a very neat trick to make it two-and-change. Did I mention the bartender was kind of hot?

Bartricks
Bartender tricks

Finally, a photo with Jim and Ashley in it. Great people, those two. We had a wonderful time talking and sharing pictures of our kids and all that jazz.

Gang!
We happy few

Here’s one of Frankie and Jim talking to Ashley and Freddie. Action photos are my favorite.

Frankie/Jim
Throwing back like a pro

It’s true that alcohol is the cause of and solution to all of life’s problems. The rain was pouring on us as we’d entered the pub, but as we left, the sun was out. Beer cures all, and that’s a fact. We made our way up to the Royal Mile and I got a good shot of it. In my head, the Royal Mile and Diagon Alley look exactly the same.

RoyalMile
Royal Mile / Diagon Alley

On our first trip to Edinburgh, we were wandering up the Royal Mile and at one point we’d lost our Freddie. Backtracking to the shop where he’d last been spotted, we found him inside here, talking with the proprietor, who was handing him samples. We were on a tight schedule, so he wasn’t allowed in this time.

Freddiehome
Freddie’s spiritual home (ha, get it?)

At one point, we had stopped to wait while some of our number looked in the shops. We found ourselves standing near the statue of Adam Smith, and I watched as different groups of tourists would come up and get pictures taken in front of the statue, in various strange poses. It seemed like such weird behavior and made me wonder if these people knew that they were making stupid faces in front of the statue of the father of modern economics. I have always tried to avoid stupid vacation photos of that nature (indeed, I have tried to avoid MOST photos of any type) because it’s one thing to look stupid, but it’s quite another to look VERY stupid.

AdamSmith
Adam Smith, the babydaddy of Capitalism

We stopped to wander through St. Giles’ Cathedral, which is completely gorgeous. I’m not a huge fan of religion but I love churches, and this one is just wonderful. The building dates from before 1385, when it was mostly rebuilt following a fire (though some sources claim the four main pillars are 200 years older) and from what I could tell, they built it all at once instead of starting at one end like a lot of cathedrals that date from that time. The late 15th century saw the addition of the crown steeple, which is a prominent feature in the Edinburgh skyline.

StGiles
St. Giles’ Cathedral

Because I should have paid £2 for a “photography permit” and I didn’t, I didn’t use any flash and a lot of my photos aren’t all that great. They wouldn’t have done the place justice anyway because the whole thing is inexpressibly lovely, with different memorials and plaques here and there. The Thistle Chapel is especially amazing.

I’ve never been accused of being straight and narrow, and I think that’s why geometric designs appeal to me so much. Looking upon order and harmony sometimes has a similar effect in my mixed-up brain.

StGilesfloor
Floor detail of St. Giles

George VI isn’t buried here, but there is a memorial to him in the Thistle Chapel. I love these kinds of things, because the churches here don’t tend to do them. I think it makes the building even more interesting, as a way of saying “HEY. HISTORY HAPPENED HERE. LOTS OF IT.”

GeorgeVI
Memorial to George VI

According to the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft, over 3800 people were accused of witchcraft during the years between 1563 and 1736. Apparently, it has been extremely difficult to come up with any kind of reasonable number of people who were actually executed, but on the wall of the Tartan Weaving Mill, there is a small fountain with a plaque below, commemorating the site where “many witches were burned at the stake.”

Witchcraft
Witches’ Well

plaque
“This Fountain, designed by John Duncan, RSA is near the site on which many witches were burned at the stake. The wicked head and serene head signify that some used their exceptional knowledge for evil purposes while others were misunderstood and wished their kind nothing but good. The serpent has the dual significance of evil and wisdom. The Foxglove spray further emphasises the dual purpose of many common objects.”

[Insert obligatory William Wallace/”Braveheart” reference here]

Freedom
You’ll never take it! Or our blue face paint!

To my sadness, we were unable to get into the Castle. It was closed for the day by the time we made our way up there, which is a huge bummer because I wanted to get a photo of William Wallace and Robert the Bruce guarding the front door and maybe visit the Mons Meg and see the view Firth of Forth and pay my respects to St. Margaret’s Chapel (the oldest surviving building in Edinburgh, dating from the early 12th century). It was one of the highlights of our trip there in 2001 and it would have been nice to refresh those memories. Alas, we were too late.

Castle
Edinburgh Castle, from the south

Instead, we walked around, did some window shopping, and took photos of random things.

TronSquare
Tron Square – no sign of lightcycles, though.

Stopped at another pub, obviously.

pint
Pint – possibly one of my favorite words

Calton Hill, home of St. Andrews House, which is the headquarters of the Scottish government. The Hill features prominently in a surprising number of paintings and photographs, and it’s easy to see why.

CaltonHill
Calton Hill

After all the wandering around, we went to dinner at The Dome, which was very fancy and nice. The original building on that site was built in 1775 and was the Physicans’ Hall. It was purchased in 1843 by the Commercial Bank of Scotland and promptly demolished. The building as it stands today was begun in 1844 and the caduceus stained-glass windows (added in 1930) are a nod to the original purpose of the site. The room was beautifully laid out, and our meal was great, but by then, I was just so over food. Everything was starting to be too much. But I rallied and had sticky toffee pudding for dessert so all is right with the world. I keep thinking I have to try my hand at making it, but then I realize that I would weigh 400 pounds if I were successful. So I shall save that particular dessert for my UK jaunts.

DomeCeiling
The Dome

After dinner, we went on a tour of the supposedly haunted underground vaults. That started with a museum of sorts that featured various instruments of torture. It’s amazing the sorts of things humans invent in order to do damage to fellow humans. The vaults themselves were fairly interesting – I’m always amazed that cities are just built on top of people sometimes. I’m sure the tour was utterly fascinating, but as I can’t hear in the dark, I was left to watch the others. The vaults share a wall with a pub, and the band in there was playing “Tribute” by Tenacious D which made me laugh and took me completely out of the moment. Oh well. I got a huge laugh at one point because I could see Steve standing next to Frankie and, ever so sneakily, Steve was inching his way behind Frankie in order to scare him. I watched the whole thing happen and nearly fell over trying to stifle a laugh.

After the tour, we got to go to “Edinburgh’s Most Haunted Pub” (mmhmm, sure) for whisky and shortbread. I don’t know about haunted, exactly, but the ladies’ room was something out of Trainspotting and the jukebox was terrible, so close enough I suppose. Freddie and Reed went downstairs to explore a bit and found more instruments of torture on the walls. I was pouting (a little) because I was tired and not getting nearly enough attention (it’s a sickness), but I rallied and we closed out the night in a different pub, laughing our fool heads off.

I got this photo on Monday in an email from Reed:

DungeonFreddie
No, this wasn’t taken in my basement

The next morning, we were up and on our way to the airport by 9AM. After we checked in and all that, we went off in search of breakfast and I wound up sitting next to these gentlemen, who pretty much sum up Scotland.

Airportmorning
9AM kilts and beer

When anyone asks “how was your trip?” My answer is always the same. “It was astounding.” Just really, really, really amazing on all levels. Every other vacation I take is going to be ruined when compared to this one, because I really could not have asked for a better place to stay or a better group of people to stay there with. Any other words I try to use to describe the thing are just not even close to being enough.

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Filed under Food, Freddie, Friends, Me Me Me, Musing, Other People

Scotland, Part The Fourth

Wednesday was our last full day at the castle, and it was BY FAR, my favorite day of them all.

I have to talk about breakfast because there was bacon involved. I am only a little bit sad that I never took pictures of the food, but it just didn’t seem like a good idea. I’m ill-mannered enough as it is, you see. But breakfast – I suppose if I had access to Scottish/English bacon of the sort I enjoyed at the castle, I would eat breakfast for every meal. American-style bacon is great, don’t get me wrong, but in the steel cage match of cured pork products, American bacon goes down like Apollo Creed against Ivan Drago. There were eggs, bacon, smoked fish, bacon, more eggs, bacon, tomatoes, bacon, mushrooms, bacon, bacon, and bacon. Breakfast was awesome, is what I’m trying to say. I might not have mentioned that there was bacon there.

Breakfast was a great time to decide what everyone was planning to do that day. Ashley (the other woman in our group and I am surprised that I don’t have more photos of her) was so enamored by the previous day’s hunting adventure that she decided to go out again. She turned into a bloodthirsty warrior goddess once she was handed a gun. The rest of us decided to go out and shoot clay pigeons.

While I understand the need for the stag hunting and the culling of the herd and all that, I’m just not sure that I could shoot an actual living animal. But I will aim and fire at clay all day long because it’s fun to shoot things! THINGS, NOT ANIMALS. Ahem.

So after breakfast, we trooped over to the Picnic Room to make lunches and then to the Luggage Room to get wellies. It turns out that Ashley was wearing the one pair of wellies that would have fit me – all the rest were too small or waaaaay too big. Thus, no wellies for me. My hiking boots are waterproof but if I were to sink into the bog at any point, I would be fucked. Didn’t matter, because I am an occasional badass, so after a safety briefing and the signing of releases, we piled into the van to go shoot.

We actually had a “Trap Club” in middle school and I went out with the boys a few times, but that was 25 years ago and I hadn’t held a gun since. Turns out it doesn’t take much to remember what to do.

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Occasional Badass

Apparently, I am a magnet for shotgun shells because no matter where I stood behind the shooter, whenever the gun was broken, the shells would fly out and land at my feet. I moved around, I moved back, didn’t matter. Shotgun shells like me, it seems.

It had been chilly and wet all morning, and then it started to rain on us. Even though I was supposed to be wearing the safety goggles, I had to abandon them because I couldn’t see out of them at all and I felt a lot safer when I could see what I was shooting at. It turns out that was the right decision because we all shot a few to warm up and I didn’t hit a damn thing. Then we decided to have a competition.

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Reed shoots

Best of 10, and whoever won got a bottle of the house whisky. We ended with Frankie, Steve, and Jim (how do I not have that many photos of Ashley and Jim?) tied at 5. Jim was our eventual winner, and he shoots lefty so he was the only person who did not hit me with spent shells. I managed to hit 2 (even though Innes let me shoot at 18 or something instead of 10 because I’m a lady and I’m cute). I’m not going to say how many Freddie managed to hit, but that number rhymes with “hero.” [grin]

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Freddie shoots

Once the shooting was done, we went back to the castle for a change of clothes because we were all dripping. I’m not sure what the other people did that afternoon, but Reed, Freddie, Steve, and I hopped in the car and went off in search of a pub or an adventure and we found both. We went first to Tarbert, the nearest thing to a town, and after a couple of laps around the main drag, we asked someone and were directed to the “pub.”

I put that in quotes because I’ve been in a number of UK pubs (that number stands at about 38, which is impressive considering the total time I’ve spent in the country is just over two weeks. Do the math) and this wasn’t one. It was a stylish hotel-style bar and while it was nice enough, it wasn’t what we wanted. We had a pint each anyway, then left to walk around the town a bit. Steve, being English, requires regular infusions of fish & chips or he has to renounce his citizenship or something.

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Fish & Chips (but he was out of gravy).

I wasn’t hungry, so I didn’t get any and while the boys were eating (standing in an alleyway with trash cans to avoid the wind, ew), I went into the shop opposite. You’d think that a place calling itself “The Harris Tweed Shop” would have more than this place did, but you’d be wrong. It was just a small shop with lots of weird things and a small-ish selection of tweed items. The boys joined me eventually (with their greasy fingers) and Freddie found a very nice jacket that he ended up getting. Reed bought a scarf (I think) and I got the coolest bag in the world – it’s made to look like a kilt and it’s an orange/grey tartan that clashes magnificently with every other article of clothing I own.

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The Harris Tweed Shop

At one point, Freddie tried on what he thought was a hat (it is similar in shape to the knit wool caps he wears all winter) and it sent Steve into hysterics because what Freddie took to be a hat was actually a tea cozy. SO MUCH LAUGHING, and for the rest of the day, anytime anyone said “tea cozy” we’d all be off our heads again. Steve tried on every hat in the store and didn’t like any of them, so we decided to try our luck at the other Harris Tweed store.

This one was a little more what I had in mind, since it was ALL TWEED ALL THE TIME and the selection of items was mind-boggling. I made a complete spectacle of myself when I rounded a corner and saw a bin… full… of… YARN. OH MY GOD THE YARN. Of course I bought some. And Steve tried on every hat in this store but found one he liked, so we were able to get out of there eventually. There’s this stereotype about how women shop, but let me tell you – these boys shop like girls. It was pretty hilarious.

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The Other Harris Tweed Shop

Once we’d been Tweeded-out, the gang decided to follow the road down the western coast to a place called Rodel which had a hotel with a pub. We had high hopes but (despite the amazing rainbow), those hopes were dashed when we arrived to find another clean, well-lit hotel bar. Is it too much to ask for a dirty, crusty old pub full of old fishermen? Apparently, yes.

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Not quite a double rainbow

The road to Rodel was one of the twistest, turniest roads I have ever been on, and that includes that insane road I drove on in Idaho between Wallace and Murray. That one is still the SCARIEST but that might be because I was driving. The road on the Isle of Harris is twisty and full of blind curves and since it’s only one lane, you have to sort of slow down or stop at the apex of a curve to ensure that nobody is coming up the opposite direction.

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Twisty and turny

It was interesting to me to note that the weather almost went unnoticed. It rained a little, the sun came out for a bit, it rained some more, the wind blew, and it all seemed normal. It all was normal. If the weather did that here at home, people would be freaking out about it.

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30 seconds later, the sun came out

Around the corner from the Rodel Hotel and Disappointing Pub was St Clement’s Church. It’s a 15-century church built probably around 1520 by the MacLeod clan. It fell into disrepair after the Protestant Reformation and spent a great deal of time disintegrating (including a period of time when it was used as a cowshed) until it was restored by the Countess of Dunmore, Catherine Herbert in 1873.

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St Clement’s Church

It sometimes feels a bit strange to go into an old church because there is a lingering sense of everything that happened there. The feeling is doubly strong in buildings that predate the Reformation as this one obviously does. It’s more than twice as old as the United States which should stop being so astonishing to me, but it never does.

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The high altar

Via a set of extremely narrow stairs, it was possible to go up into the second level of the tower. Something about it weirded me out so I didn’t spend much time up there and instead took more pictures downstairs. These are grave slabs but it’s unclear if they were brought in from the churchyard or if they had once marked tombs inside the church.

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Grave slabs

The 8th, 9th, and 10th chiefs of the MacLeod clan are entombed in St. Clements. I’m not sure which of the chiefs this one is (I think it’s the 10th chief, John MacLeod) but these wall tombs are among the best examples of medieval tombs in all of Scotland. I’m sure it helps that this is one of the most remote places on the planet, and you’d really have to have a serious grudge against the MacLeods to go all the way out there to vandalize the place.

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Wall tomb

A 1549 history of the Western Isles claims that St. Clement’s isn’t the first church to be built on this site, but there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that this is true. This same book also claims that the church is part of a monastery, but there is no indication of that, either. The info points in the church weren’t super-detailed, but Wikipedia and other sources all agree on these points. Still, the tower is lovely, and there’s a restful feeling to the place.

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Tower

There were a few crypts in the churchyard, most of them overgrown with the text of the memorial markers all but worn away. The gravestones that were still intact were mostly made of granite and dated from the late 1870s when the church had been restored and presumably put back in service. It feels a little strange to be walking over graves but there’s nothing else for it in churches like this.

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View from south-east corner of churchyard

The sun came out again and gave us another rainbow as we left the church. Instead of going back the way we’d come, we went onward and took the road up the west coast of the island. Some of the prettiest bits were fenced in so only the sheep could enjoy the view, but we found a place where we could go out on the rocks and watch the waves crash.

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Freddie on the rocks

I picked my dainty way out there to join him (mindful of the fact that if I were to twist my ankle I’d be worse than fucked until we got home) and Steve offered to take a picture of Freddie and me together. After his own self-portrait, of course. I didn’t know he’d done it until later, and we laughed about that as we’d been laughing about pretty much everything all day long.

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Steve’s self-portrait

Freddie and I are literally on the rocks here. Haha, geddit?

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Rachel and Freddie on the rocks

Every time, I was surprised at how incredibly blue the water was. I’m sure a little bit of sleuthing would give me a good explanation for it, but I’m willing to bet that it’s that blue because that’s what color it’s supposed to be, and because it’s not full of pollution and greasy New Yorkers like the ocean on the Jersey shore.

All in all, it was one of the best afternoons I’ve had doing anything, anywhere, ever.

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Waves crashing

We made it back to the castle in time for tea, then it was time to get ready for the final dinner. I didn’t have nearly enough time to dry my hair, so apologies must be made. Because the universe is tricky, my dress was being all gappy in the front, which sucked balls because the damn thing fit in the store when I tried it on with that exact same bra. In a fit of organization, I’d completely cleaned out my toiletry bag o’tricks before we left, and divested myself of my legendary safety pin collection, so there wasn’t an obvious solution to my problem.

However, as with most things in life, I solved this problem with a little help from my friends. I had my JGz button pinned to my little purse, and I used that to MacGuyver the shit out of my dress and bra and it looked just fine. We then made our way downstairs for pre-dinner drinks with the rest of the gang.

Innes was in full kilt, and he said it was the tartan of the Isle of Harris. The examples I’m finding online don’t jibe exactly with what he’s got there, though. The whole outfit was just freaking gorgeous.

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Innes and me, all gussied up

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Freddie and Innes

This is one of the only times we got a shot of the whole group. I wish we had gotten one on the first day to compare to this one, but aren’t we all adorable in our fancy gear?

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Group photo!

I rarely consent to being photographed, but here I am chatting away with Reed and Mrs. Hall. I am still mad at my hair because it looked SO MUCH BETTER the previous night. Ugh, shut up, hair.

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Proof that I can be released into polite society

The procession into dinner had bagpipes as the soundtrack. I know some people really hate the sound of the pipes, but I love them. I always have. I’d love to learn to play bagpipes at some point, because why not?

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Bagpipes!

There are few things in life I love more than a well-dressed man. Here are two exceedingly fine examples.

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Steve and Freddie

Michael is another one of the men who was on the trip with us. I only have a few pictures of him because he spent all of his available time fishing. He looks good in a kilt, though.

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Michael and Innes, sharing a laugh

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Alex and Freddie

Because it was our last night there, everyone was hanging out, playing snooker, drinking, chatting up a storm, and just having a good time. It was nearly impossible to get a really good shot of anyone at the snooker table because the lamp hanging above it was just enormous and fairly low.

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Freddie takes a shot

Rachael is the daughter of the house, and she is a delight. She’s very into the hunting and fishing that goes on and is pretty good at both of them. She seemed very down-to-earth and genuine and I had a great time talking with her. We have exactly the same name (with the exception of that extra letter “a” that she has), which was a cute coincidence.

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Rachael

I did say I have a weakness for well-dressed men, so there are quite a few photos of this nature. There would have been MORE but I was doing the creepy paparazzo thing as it was and I didn’t want people to start running away in earnest.

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Innes, Steve, and Freddie

This one was taken fairly late in the evening, obviously.

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Innes comes close to answering an age-old question

Freddie again! I couldn’t get him to stand still long enough to get a really good photo of him, but I did try. And there’s Jim in the background! At one point, Jim wanted to bow out of the snooker so he could go to bed but he ended up winning the game, poor guy. He just wanted to sleep.

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Handsome boy

On one of the previous days, I had been wearing my Editors t-shirt and Steve recognized it. I knew right then that we would hit it off and get along well. Add to that his English accent, and I’m surprised I managed to refrain from kidnapping him because all I want out of life is an English boy to follow me around and talk at me all day long. Honestly.

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An Englishman who drinks rum. Shocking.

After the snooker was over, the last vestiges of the group trickled out and found themselves around the drinks cabinet. Michael pulled out a bottle of something blue, all “What’s this?” That turned out to be my cue to head to bed. I can’t remember the last time I had laughed so much in one day.

VeryLate
Yeah, like that.

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Scotland, Part The Third

By the second full day, it looked like weather and jet lag were catching up to me because I was not feeling super-great at breakfast. It didn’t help that the majority of the party were planning to go stalking all day, which would have been interesting to me on a dry day but with the wind the way it was, I knew I would be miserable doing that so I opted to stay in. My knees were giving me trouble just going up and down the stairs because I am a chubby geriatric sort of person who can tell what the weather is going to be based on what body parts ache. So after breakfast, I went back to bed for a few hours and it was the best decision I ever made.

Just across from the Picnic Room is the Luggage Room. It’s filled with things like life vests and Wellington boots and other bits and pieces one might need to add to her outfit if she were planning to go stomp around the hills all day. The hunting party started there, making sure everyone had Wellies and gear enough for their trek. Lunches were also made, and then they all gathered in the Fishing Room for a safety briefing. Or maybe that happened before they all gathered their gear. I don’t know for sure; I was napping.

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Fishing Room

The Fishing Room has wonderful maps of the estate, showing the various lochs and roads, as well as relief map showing the hills and likely places to find stag. There’s a big table in the middle and smaller tables around the edges, for tying flies and all the other things that go along with fishing and hunting. The photographs around the room show various guests and groups with their trophies, and on one wall is a collection of fish sketches, noting the details of who caught it, where it was caught, and just how big it was.

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Wall of Fish

I went back to bed, snuggling happily under the VERY fluffy down comforter and had myself the best nap I’ve had in decades. I woke up feeling so much better and refreshed. I took my journal and my book down to the Drawing Room and settled in on one of the incredibly comfortable sofas to read and write and look out the window. A few times I caught myself feeling a little guilty because I wasn’t taking full advantage of this amazing castle, but then I realized that being able to sit in a quiet room to read and write at leisure is something I never, ever get to do.

Once in awhile, I would get up to stretch and think “hm, maybe I’ll go for a walk in a bit.” However, the very second I would stand up to go get my shoes, I’d glance out the window to see that it was raining. This happened at least six times, so eventually I gave up and figured that the universe wanted me to have a nice, relaxing day. So that’s what I had. At one point, I moved out of the Drawing Room and into the TV Room, where I found Reed doing exactly what I was doing – precisely nothing. We had a good time flipping channels and wondering what the hunting party was up to.

It turns out, they were up to braving the weather, mostly. After some shooting practice, they set out up the hill. Freddie reported that they didn’t follow any kind of path or do any kind of switchbacks in order to go up, they just clambered up after the ghillie as best they could (My Knees: “Oh, HELL NO”) and tried to keep pace.

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Shotgun Freddie

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Ready, Aim, Breathe…

From what I heard, the wind was astounding up on the top of the hill. It was amazing enough down at the castle, I can’t imagine what it would have been like without any windbreaks.

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Freddie in the wind

Apparently, Steve nearly blew away.

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Steve showing the wind who’s boss (or vice-versa)

Stalking the deer is an exercise in walking and patience. When they finally did get themselves in a good position to get a shot, Freddie reported that he was all set up, ready to shoot, and the stag… walked away. I’m not sure how excited I would have been had he returned to the castle with a deer head, but it was cute how excited he was.

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Peeping over the ridge

Not to change the subject, but…

All the best country houses have resident ghosts, and Amhuinnsuidhe Castle is no exception. The rumor is that Lady Sophie Scott (whose remains lie with those of her husband in the cairn up the hill from the castle) still checks in from time to time. Over the years, various guests have reported feeling chills and seeing reflections of things that aren’t there in windows and mirrors.

At dinner that evening, I finally managed to get up and get some photos of that magnificent dining room. The following is a shot of the tapestry above the fireplace.

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Lady Sophie is in the top left.

Occasionally, ghosts (or whatever you wish to believe they are) can be caught in photographs. They tend to show up as smears of light or bluish orbs, and are usually explained away by skeptics as smudges or dust on the camera lens. I grew up in a house that had at least three ghosts (so I’m in no way a skeptic), and I am certain that this is Lady Sophie. I took the photo below about three seconds after the other one – the hair on my arms was standing straight up, and my ears started ringing. Do with that what you will, but if it were dust on the lens, it would have shown up again, don’t you think?

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Hmmm.

My journal is utterly hysterical on the subject of meals. I had originally planned to transcribe it verbatim, but after reading it over, I decided against that because I tend to ramble and repeat myself a lot (not that I’m not doing that here). The first night, I described dinner in detail, discussing how amazing the meal was. Each meal was more amazing than the next, and by the time I got to the third dinner, the journal simply says “Dinner = OMG.” After dinner, drinks were happening and at least one necessary bottle needed to be replaced (I don’t even remember what), so Mrs. Hall invited Steve and me to join her on a trip to the wine cellar. I certainly don’t need to be asked twice, so away we went.

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Wine Cellar

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I could get through these in about a week.

I don’t know that I could ever be a wine collector. I’m an enthusiastic wine drinker, for sure, but to collect it? That’s just not my thing. I am, however, quite impressed with the collections of people who do it, because they do end up with some rare and interesting bottles. Mr. Hall has been collecting wine for about 40 years, and he’s got quite an array. His personal collection was housed on the top shelves of the cellar, so I didn’t get a chance to really peek at the labels. I’m sure Mrs. Hall would have produced a ladder out of thin air if I had asked, though. That lady is magic.

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Mrs Hall in the wine cellar

Because the castle is also one of the Hall family’s homes, they have their own private kitchen and sitting room off to the one side. Mrs. Hall graciously allowed Steve and me to go in and look around and I have to say, it’s pretty much the best kitchen I have ever seen. I think the entirety of the downstairs of my house would fit in there comfortably. The room was beautifully laid out, painted a cheerful yellow, and featured a tiled backsplash that was just… right. There’s not really any other way to put it. That room is a wonderful example of harmony, and it reflects the personalities of its owners in that it is warm and welcoming and completely comfortable.

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Frankie taking a shot

Yes, of course there was snooker after dinner. It became something of a joke whenever Frankie would play, because he would inevitably end up wanting to go to bed but still be in the game. At one point, he was begging people to let him lose.

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